(fixes typographical in first bullet point)
* Domestic investors lock in gains in past few weeks
* Friday sees peak of Japanese earnings season
* Retailers solid, carmakers slide
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, May 12 Japanese shares slipped from near
1-1/2-year highs on Friday as the market took a breather from
its rally since mid-April, while trading was also influenced by
a mixed bag of earnings with Nissan Motor rising on a surprise
The Nikkei share average ticked down 0.7 percent to
19,823.28 as some investors booked profits. The index has gained
more than 3 percent so far this month and in excess of 9 percent
from its April 17 low of 18,225.
"There are many people who failed to take profits in March
when the Nikkei peaked just below the 20,000. So those people
are likely to be selling now," said Soichiro Monji, chief
strategist at Daiwa SB Investments.
But some market players expect the Nikkei to eventually
clear the 20,000 mark, given a generally upbeat outlook for the
The broader Topix dropped 0.7 percent to 1,575.53.
On the week, both the Nikkei and the Topix look set to post
their fourth straight week of gains, helped also by easing
worries over European politics and tensions in the Korean
The market's immediate focus is on corporate earnings, which
will hit a peak for this season on Friday.
Among the companies that have announced earnings so far,
operating profits are seen rising 3.6 percent in the year to
March 2017, said Kenji Abe, chief strategist at Okasan
"So far, positive surprises and negative surprises balance
out. The earnings have not been particularly strong but there
isn't much to worry about either," he said.
Rakuten jumped more than 10 percent after the
internet firm posted strong earning growth in the January-March
quarter on Thursday after market close.
Market players are rotating into domestic demand-led shares,
such as retailers, which rose 0.5 percent, even after
their U.S. peers tumbled following weak earnings.
Retailers have gained 7 percent so far this quarter,
compared to 4.2 percent gains in the Topix in the same period.
Department store operator Marui Group jumped more
than 10 percent on its solid earnings and share buy-back
On the other hand, carmakers underperformed as the yen
rebounded from near two-month lows.
Transport equipment maker subindex dropped 1.3
percent, with Denso falling 1.9 percent and Honda Motor
shedding 1.7 percent
Bucking the trend, Nissan rose 3.6 percent on its
dividend hike plan although it forecast an unexpected fall in
profits and its guidance were lower than analyst expectations.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)